Music publishers sue Fullscreen over royalties from music videos

Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" is one of the copyrighted songs a group of music publishers claims musicians have covered on Fullscreen's YouTube channels without paying royalties.
Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” is one of the copyrighted songs a group of music publishers claims musicians have covered on Fullscreen’s YouTube channels without paying royalties.
(Tim Dominick / MCT)

A group of music publishers, including Warner/Chappell Music Inc., has sued Fullscreen Inc., which operates thousands of YouTube channels, over copyrighted songs in the digital media company’s music videos.

The Culver City-based Fullscreen, which has helped boost the popularity of many YouTube stars, has built more than 15,000 channels with 200 million subscribers and gets about 2.5 billion views a month.

In a complaint filed in a New York federal court Tuesday, the National Music Publishers’ Assn. said Fullscreen has generated advertising revenue from music videos without paying royalties to songwriters and publishers.

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Some of Fullscreen’s YouTube channels are specifically dedicated to music videos, including Fullscreen Artist Mix, which showcases established and emerging performers.

A substantial number of the music videos on Fullscreen’s channels feature musicians performing unlicensed covers of popular songs, according to the complaint.

“Fullscreen’s success and growth as a digital business is attributable in large part to the prevalence and popularity of its unlicensed music videos,” David Israelite, the association’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We must stop the trend of ignoring the law, profiting from someone else’s work, then asking forgiveness when caught.”

A Fullscreen spokeswoman declined to comment.

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In the complaint, the association asked the court to stop Fullscreen from infringing on copyrighted musical works and award damages including profits from infringement and attorneys’ fees.

Some of the well-known works named in the case include songs originally performed by Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, which have numerous unlicensed cover versions on Fullscreen’s channels, according to the complaint.

Plaintiffs named in the case include Warner Music Group’s publishing arm Warner/Chappell and SONGS Music Publishing LLC.


The association said it has reached a settlement agreement in a similar dispute with Maker Studios Inc., an online multichannel network that competes with Fullscreen. The settlement has not been finalized.

YouTube, which is owned by Google Inc., has direct licensing agreements with many music publishers to pay royalties from cover versions, but multichannel networks such as Fullscreen are not covered under those agreements.

Earlier this year, Maker Studios and Fullscreen reached an agreement with Universal Music Publishing Group to give their creators access to songs in the Universal catalog.



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